The Eastern Conference has taken a turn for the better during the offseason. While once seen as the inferior conference to the Western Conference, many teams within the Eastern Conference have made bold moves in order to improve their team and their chances of winning a championship.
It will be very interesting to see how each team plays, which teams will make the playoff and what seed each team will receive.
1 Seed: Miami Heat
This is an obvious choice for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat have won back-to-back championships and have the best player in the world, LeBron James, still playing for them. They also have many other players from last year’s team including Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. The Heat are huge favorites to return to the NBA Finals and win their third straight championship.
2 Seed: Chicago Bulls
With the return of All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls will win the Central division and claim the second seed in the Eastern Conference. People forget just how good Derrick Rose was when he was healthy. The year he won his MVP, analysts were putting him right next to LeBron and Kobe as the three best players in the NBA.
The Bulls will still have their big men – Joakim Noah, one of the best post defenders in basketball, and Carlos Boozer, along with swingmen Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Coach Tom Thibodeau provides the team with a well-disciplined defensive game plan that can give any team problems. Look for the Bulls to be the main contender to take down the Heat in the East.
3 Seed: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have really matured during the past year. Both Paul George and Roy Hibbert have transformed into two top players in the NBA.
The Pacers also have veteran leadership, brought by David West, and great coaching from Frank Vogel, who proved he is one of the top coaches in the league as he led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The return of shooting guard Danny Granger will give the team the scorer and finisher they did not have last year. Unfortunately, the return of Derrick Rose will make the Bulls a team the Pacers will not be able to contend with by the end of the year, as they finish second in the Central division.
4 Seed: New York Knicks
The Knicks will win the Atlantic Division and take the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony is looking to get even better as he comes off one of his best years in the league. Iman Shumpert is outstanding defensively, and ready to break out as a star player in the NBA. With contributions from role players such as J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler and a healthy Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks should be able to finish ahead of the Nets this year.
5 Seed: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets took a huge risk when they traded three first-round draft picks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. With the trade, the Nets have put all their chips into winning this year.
They will not be able to get very far though, with the rest of Eastern Conference improving, and Lebron James still playing for the Miami Heat. The Nets will still be able to have a successful year though. Partnering up Pierce and Garnett with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson should win them a lot of games. But with talk of Garnett and Pierce taking games off to stay healthy for the playoffs, it will be tough to overcome the Knicks in their division.
6 Seed: Atlanta Hawks
Not much is expected of the Atlanta Hawks this year, who lost their best player, Josh Smith, to free agency. The Hawks have a very underrated roster, which includes Al Horford, one of the most underrated players in the NBA, along with solid role players such as Jeff Teague and sharp shooter Kyle Korver. Atlanta has also improved their frontcourt by adding Paul Millsap from the Utah Jazz along with veteran Elton Brand.
The Hawks are definitely not good enough to make any sort of championship run this year but should be good enough to wrap up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
7 Seed: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are on the verge of being an excellent team. Kyrie Irving is one of the best rising stars in the game and is slowly trending toward one of the best point guards as well. The Cavs have also been able to use multiple first-round draft picks to retool their team.
And who knows, if LeBron leaves Miami next year…
8 Seed: Detroit Pistons
With the addition of Josh Smith to a team which already includes Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond the Pistons have one of the best frontcourts in basketball.
Detroit also added Brandon Jennings, who was the main guy in Milwaukee for the first few years of his career and who will help facilitate the offense from the backcourt. Chauncey Billups returns to Detroit to provide leadership to a young, talented team.
– By Brian Chavkin